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Electrical Wiring in the Home/Rewiring My Den & Don't Know Where the Wires Go


QUESTION: Dear Mr. Tomasulo:

In my den, I have two SPDT switches -- mostly split receptacle outlets. Can I take the receptacles off the switch, keep the switch circuit intact by wiring it together in the back of the receptacle boxes and place recessed lighting on new SPDT dimmer-switches instead?

If so, how (without pulling another cable from the subpanel)?

Also, I did not understand the complexity of this wiring and did not label the wires when I removed the receptacles for placement of new drywall, so I am going to have to test the wires to determine which ones go where. Do you have any advice on a procedure for doing that?

I am guessing I should get 120V from the always on power going into the first outlet box in the circuit with the breaker on and the switches not wired together. Is that correct? Then, wire that outlet correctly and test for the next correct V down the line?

The current configuration starts with a receptacle box with 4 cables, 2 coming up from the bottom, 2 exiting the top. The bottom left was attached to a receptacle in the box; so I'm guessing that's the last outlet in the circuit. The bottom right is attached to the corresponding wires of the 2 cables exiting the box, with all the copper wires twisted together; so I'm guessing the bottom right is the power in, and probably the top right is going to another receptacle and the top left to the first switch, or vice versa.

None of them are wrapped with any electrical tape or sleeved with any kind of insulation.

For the rest of the room, since I cannot attach images, I will do my best to describe what's in each outlet going clockwise around the room starting with the 4 cable box:

Box1: 4 cables as described above;
Box2: 2 cables through the top;
Box3: 2 cables through the top;
Box4: 2 cables through the bottom;
Box5: 1 cable through the bottom and 1 cable through the top;
Box6: 1 cable through the bottom that has its ground solo and 2 cables through the top with grounds twisted together;
Box7: A switch box -- 1 cable through the bottom and 1 through the top;
Box8: 2 cables through the top;
Box9: 2 cables through the top with the two top grounds wired together with a ground wire screwed into the box and 1 cable through the bottom with a solo ground;
Box10: A switch box -- 1 cable through the top and 1 through the bottom.

Cable refers to shielded wire containing 1 black, 1 white, and 1 ground.

Unless otherwise specified, all the grounds from the cables in the box are wired together to attach to the receptacle.

Thank you so very much for any and all assistance.

Kindest Regards,

ANSWER: Hello Heather,
My name is Robert and ill be helping you today and in response to your question and just briefly reading your situation it looks as if you WILL be able to do it that being said i will go into detail and how to wire it sometime tomorrow so please be patient,i had an family emergency whkch i had to tend to.. Thank You Robert

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QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this. I understand and appreciate the fact that you're even responding at such a time. I pray all is well.

ANSWER: Hello heather, are going to have some work ahead of  i will get you through it now that being said just to answer a couple of you easy questions YES you can most definitely wire the receptacles to be constant and still control the lights without having to run a new cable HOWEVER i would recommend changing over the switches to SINGLE POLE SWITCHES.You will no longer have a need for the double throw once you go constant on the receptacles AND you will have less of a mess in the box and to do so all you have to do is find the CONSTANT HOT in the switch box and add the black wire or possibly red if they used a 3 wire cable but im pretty sure it would be black from the FIRST receptacle and just wire nut it to that constant. Now you will also have to add a "TAIL" As well from that constant and put it to one side of the new switch and it doesn't matter what screw you put it on the upper or lower makes no difference than the other screw terminal of that switch your going to put on the black wire of the first light of the high hats and that is called A SWITCH LEG...BAM YOU DID start with that and any questions on this let me know before we proceed...Robert  

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QUESTION: Dear Mr. Tomasulo:
I am an idiot, so please bear with me on this. I think what you are saying is that I should only have one switch in the den to turn the overhead lights on. Is that correct? I have two entrances into the den, and so the double throw makes it nice for people entering from either direction to have light in the room or to put the lights out before they exit from either direction. Also, I have 3 black wires together and 3 white wires together as well as a black and a white wire coming in from the bottom of the box in the box where the power comes in. All four of the holes for wire on top and bottom coming into the box are completely filled by the wires coming into the box. If I attach a separate line to those wires, how should I feed it out of the box and to the switches? I could route the wires under the floor through the basement, pulling from the hot at some kind of junction box mounted to the ceiling of my basement and then make pulls by drilling holes in the ceiling of the basement to pass the wire up to the switch boxes. Would that be okay? And then what wires do you think are in that gnarly dangerous overcrowded box at the start of the circuit? I think the wires twisted together with the power in are both going to all the outlets, but in different directions. I'm not certain if one is passing through the switch in the wall first, though. It's difficult for me to imagine how this circuit is set up. I was hoping it might be a familiar setup to you. However, it's possible that the configuration is so old that it's outside the scope of standard best practices in wiring. The house was built in 1974 if that helps. Anyway, if I can do it, I want to remove the electrical shock hazard in that box as I accidentally "blew it up" when I was removing the outlets to begin with, and then again accidentally just dropped my computer power cord near it and blew up my power box in my machine. I can try to leave the breaker off in the subpanel until I am done working on this, but sometimes other circuits trip a breaker and helpful people reset all the switches to fix the other tripped breaker, creating a hazard for me and the kids in the den. So, I would like to safen this up a bit as soon as possible. The wires are screwed together with wire nuts, but apparently that's no guarantee the electricity is contained. I really appreciate all of your advice with this.
Kindest Regards,

Hey Heather sorry for the delay...That being said hold up on everything I need to go back and review all your messages after reading your last message it is now MORE CLEAR to me...and you DO NOT have a double Pole switch IT A 3 WAY SWITCH and is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from a double Pole switch and do totally 2 different let me review all past messages and I'll get back to you.It happens it's easy to confuse terminology however well get to the bottom of it and don't worry its ok.
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Electrical Wiring in the Home

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Robert Tomasulo


I am here to answer ALL your questions regarding anything to do with home wiring such as Switches, Receptacles,Lighting, Main Distribution Panels, HVAC, Thermostats, etc; if it has a wire and in your home I CAN ANSWER IT. Whether its as simple as "why do my lights flicker?" Or as complex as I would like to rewire my house im here to help, in addition i can offer advice on remodeling a kitchen or lighting up you back yard as well as offering troubleshooting on appliances.


I have over 17 years in the electrical industry including Residential, Commercial & Industrial, Im also a certified HVAC technician as well as a certified fiber obtic technician.I am currently employed by the New York City Transit Authority as the Senior Electrical Maintainer and serve as the Relief Foreman for the electrical maintenance division for the past 12 years.I also hold many certifications, licenses and certificates in my field

FOA Member(Fiber Optic Association) UTU (United Transportation Union) IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) HVAC/TALK (Heating & Air conditioning troubleshooting group)

5 years of technical school after high school in electrical installation and design sponsored by Local 3 (IBEW) As well as over 17 years of hands on in the field training and education, and till this day im still learning, Not a day goes by that i don't learn something and if i feel i didn't i will open up a book to insure I DO!

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